Thursday, December 24, 2015

British Army war diaries 1914-1922

The National Archives in the UK have been digitising the British Army war diaries from 1914-1922.  These records are the unit war diaries of the British Army in the First World War, not personal diaries (try the Imperial War Museum for those). They are part of a large series of records which contains many more diaries scheduled for digitisation, and the NA are now conserving, sorting, digitising and itemising thousands more diaries from the WO 95 series as part of their First World War 100 programme.

The digitised diaries cover activity in France and Belgium.  The amount of detail each Unit Diary contains varies quite a bit.  Some diaries only record daily losses and map references whilst others are more descriptive, with daily reports on operations, intelligence summaries and other material.  Some refer to maps and plans which were regarded as confidential and removed from the diaries before they were preserved.  A few diaries contain details about awards of the Military Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal, but mostly they do not contain a great deal of information about specific individuals.  Many of the war diaries were scribbled hastily in pencil and use obscure abbreviations, whilst some are the second carbon copy of the original, so they may be difficult to read.

The diaries include those of 247 First World War hospital camps, hospital ships, convalescent hospitals and veterinary hospitals.  These war diaries reveal different methods of treating injured and disabled soldiers, and give insight into life in hospital during the First World War and the daily routines, operations and special events.  These even include Christmas services: on board Hospital Ship Vasna in December 1918, ‘a generous supply of gifts were obtained from the Red Cross Depot in Basra and were distributed by the Matron to all patients, passengers and staff.’  They also illustrate the challenges involved in setting up hospitals in battlegrounds and at sea, and the logistics of nursing thousands of soldiers and animals back to health. The war diary for HMHS Erinpura reveals that in just 15 voyages in 1918, the ship had carried ‘6126 sick and 4067 troops’.

You can search by Regiment, Battalion, Brigade or Division (number), but keep in mind that if you search only by regiment, your search results will include all the battalions in that regiment. PDF files of the diaries can then be downloaded.  With each download, you will typically see a unit diary that may cover a period of several years and may be divided into several PDF files. You can then scroll through the PDF files to locate the battalion and dates that you are interested in.  Note that while searching is free, there may be a charge to download documents.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Historic Victoria Photographs online at the State Library of Victoria

The State Library of Victoria has begun an ambitious new project digitising a huge collection of photographs from the 1970s.  Taken by volunteers from a group called the Committee for Urban Action (CUA), the collection comprises over 2000 reels of 35mm film, totalling over 70,000 photographs. 

The CUA were concerned by what they saw as the destruction of Victoria’s building heritage, and sought to preserve on film the streetscapes of inner-city Melbourne and regional towns in Victoria.  On average each town or suburb had approximately 800 photos taken during the project.  Their collection of film was donated to the State Library in 1977, where it has sat in storage for over 40 years.

The SLV’s 2014 Annual Appeal raised funds to make this collection more accessible to the public. The pilot project has seen the digitisation of 3000 images from the collection, focusing on streetscapes from inner-city Fitzroy and the regional town of Castlemaine.

Hargraves Street, Castlemaine, from Lyttleton Street to Templeton Street, west side. From the CUA collection

Friday, December 18, 2015

Western Australia Early Almanacs

The State Library of Western Australia has recently completed the digitising of a series of almanacs dating from 1849 – 1889. Almanacs predate the Western Australian government Year Books and Post Office Directories, and served a similar purpose in detailing the activities of the colony of Western Australia. These were produced by several different, and sometimes competing, publishers such as Stirling and Sons, Arthur Shenton, and James Pearce, so there may be more than one publication for a particular year.
Western Almanack and Directory 1869
Most early almanacs include a list of prominent office-holders and their positions in the establishment. Some editions, particularly Stirling and Sons’ almanacs, may also include a brief chronicle of occurrences and events for the year. As well as statistics on the demography and productivity of the colony, calendars, and schedules of government fees, the almanacs contain advertisements for many local businesses including merchants, banks, jewellers, undertakers, insurance agents, hoteliers, teachers, accountants, retailers, accountants and tradesmen.

Advertisements from the Western Australian Almanack 1868

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What's New on Trove

Every few months when the National Library of Australia announce the latest historical newspaper titles that they have digitised and added on to Trove, I dive in to see what's new.  Frequently the new titles mean redoing searches and finding new gems to add to my files. Here’s their latest additions - happy Troving!
New South Wales
– The Australian Workman (Sydney, NSW: 1890-1897)
– The Bird O’ Freedom (Sydney, NSW: 1891-1896)
– The Dead Bird (Sydney, NSW: 1889-1891)
– The Workers’ Weekly (Sydney, NSW: 1923-1939)
– Brisbane Telegraph (Qld.: 1948-1954)
– The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld.: 1903-1926)
– The Evening Advocate (Innisfail, Qld.: 1941-1954)
– The Evening Telegraph (Charters Towers, Qld.: 1901-1921)
– Johnstone River Advocate and Innisfail News (Qld.: 1928-1941)
– The Toowoomba Chronicle and Queensland Advertiser (Qld.: 1861-1875)
South Australia
– Border Chronicle (Bordertown, SA: 1908-1950)
– Critic (Adelaide, SA: 1897-1924)
– The Express (Adelaide, SA: 1922-1923)
– The Pennant (Penola, SA: 1946-1954)
– The Terowie Enterprise (SA: 1884-1891)
– The Derwent Star and Van Diemen’s Land Intelligencer (Hobart, Tas.: 1810-1812)
– King Island News (Currie, King Island: 1912-1954)
– The North Coast Standard (Latrobe, Tas.: 1890-1894)
– The Colonial Mining Journal, Railway and Share Gazette (Vic.: 1858-1859)
– The Colonial Mining Journal, Railway and Share Gazette and Illustrated Record (Melbourne, Vic.: 1859-1861)
Western Australia
– The Avon Gazette and Kellerberrin News (WA: 1914-1916)
– The Australian (Perth, WA: 1917-1923)
– The Avon Gazette and York Times (WA: 1916-1930)
– The Blackwood Times (Bunbury, WA: 1905-1920; 1945-1954)
– The Leonora Miner (WA: 1910-1928)
– Narrogin Observer (WA: 1952-1954)
– The Northam Advertiser (WA: 1895-1918; 1948-1954)
– The Pingelly Leader (WA: 1906-1925)
– Pingelly-Brookton Leader (WA: 1925-1926)
– The Southern Districts Advocate (Katanning, WA: 1913-1936)
– The Sun (Kalgoorlie, WA: 1898-1919)
– The W.A. Record (Perth, WA: 1888-1922)
– Yilgarn Merredin Times (Southern Cross, WA: 1921-1923)

Monday, December 14, 2015

1891 New South Wales Census Records has indexed records from the 1891 New South Wales census. This census lists the head of household, street address, and the number of male and female members of the household. There is also a separate column listing the “Number of Chinese and Aborigines” in the household, and another column for comments from the census takers. The collection can be searched by first name and last name.  You can also browse the 21,315 images that make up the collection.

Number of images per district
 Like many other Australian researchers I have long lamented the lack of complete census records available, and have joined others in urging our government to change its policy of destroying census records after statistical data has been extracted.  It is heartening to see a significant surviving record set now digitised and available - even if it doesn't cover any of my direct ancestors (sigh).

An example page from Albury